March 20, 2018

Know Your Opponent: 49ers Edition

It is that time again where we get some more information on the upcoming opponent and this week it is the San Francisco 49ers. The Houston Texans are headed to the west coast for a Sunday Night matchup against one of the top teams in the NFL.

We enlisted the help of Houston Sports Radio Personality and 49ers fan Matt Jackson and talked about the upcoming game.

Know Your Opponent


imageWhat are your thoughts on Colin Kaepernick into his second season as the quarterback for the 49ers?

I think there is a pretty big learning curve for Colin this season because the team is trying very hard to keep him in the pocket as much as possible to keep him from getting hurt.  In theory, if the 49ers had a healthy Michael Crabtree to go with Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, that might not be the worst idea in the world. Unfortunately with the lack of a down field threat at WR, there are some pretty narrow windows to throw the football. His accuracy, especially on out routes from the pocket, has been very hit or miss.


With the 49ers weak wide receiver group, not named Anquan Boldin, how do they matchup to the Texans secondary?


I think what you will see the 49ers do is use a ton of their big personnel (Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Bruce Miller, Gore/James/Hunter, and Boldin).

That’s what they did with some success against the Rams. They initially set up with a very tight look with Miller sometimes set up as an H-Back rather than as the I-Fullback.  They then shift one of the 2 backs wide to the strong side of the field and Kap goes into the gun.  They can run out of that formation or isolate the LB that follows the RB to the sideline. They look for some quick hitters out of that formation and hope for broken tackles.  In terms of a downfield weapon, again their best play is to set up in 2 TE initially and then shift Vernon Davis out wide looking for single coverage on an option route.

Honestly, I am not expecting many big plays in the pass game from San Francisco in this game unless they pop a screen.  The 49ers are just incredibly slow at WR and thus run mostly shallow drags or intermediate posts.  I’d be more concerned about the RB’s and TE’s than Anquan Boldin in this one if I am Houston.


31B1NinersGorecolor50p-698x1024Enough can not be said of what Frank Gore has meant to the organization, why doesn’t he get more respect around the NFL?


I think Gore was ignored for a long time because the 49ers were such a bad team and an especially bad offensive team.  This guy could easily have 12,000 yards when he hangs up his cleats and yet it still feels like we all missed out on the player he could have been before the knee injuries. Gore was one of the most explosive backs I have ever seen as a freshman at The U, averaging over 9 yards a carry. He was stuck behind Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee among others and then wrecked his knee in garbage time of one of the Canes’ blowout wins.  The 49ers would like LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter to stay healthy so they can try to prolong the prime of Gores career as much as possible.  The best case scenario for San Francisco would probably be 2 more years of Gore and then hoping James, Hunter or Marcus Lattimore has established himself as the heir apparent.


Patrick Willis is slated to come back this week, how much better can it get than him and Navarro Bowman in the middle for the 49ers defense?  


I don’t know any other team that can leave 2 ILB’s on the field at all times.  They are so good at diagnosing plays at the snap that they get deeper drops than pretty much anyone I have ever seen. Willis was slowed by injury last year and the Niners actually took him off the field some and played a 3rd safety. With Dashon Goldson gone to Tampa Bay, the Niners are almost exclusively a nickel look in passing situations. They feel like Navarro Bowman can cover anyone in the slot if need be.  I know it sounds crazy to say this considering he had 20 plus sacks last year, but Alden Smith might have been the least talented overall player of the 4 Niners LB’s. Ahmad Brooks is criminally underrated and unfortunately for his teammate’s broken face, criminally insane.


What is Joe Staley’s stauts going into Sunday? We know he had a scary ankle injury late in their game on Thursday against the Rams. 

Staley is good to go. He apologized to his teammates after the game for screaming like a little girl.


What do the 49ers have to do to beat the Texans?

hi-res-154289743_crop_650x440San Francisco plays its best football when they are able to establish the dive and wham plays with Frank Gore early. It opens up their play action and counter game.  However, something tells me you are going to see a ton of option plays in Whitney Mercilus’ direction.  I’m not sure quick decisions are his strong suit. In an ideal world, Kaepernick would not have to throw the ball more than 25 times. It’s highly improbable that the 49ers are going to find themselves in a shootout IMO, so I expect a fairly conservative offensive plan to keep turnovers to a minimum. The best matchup on the field to me is Texans front 7 against the 49ers OL.

If I am San Francisco defensively, I stay in cover 2 forever and force Matt Schaub into 12+ play drives to score TD’s.  The Colts were able to run the football on San Francisco but I’d like to think that was a fluke more than anything.  I think the Texans will have success between the 20’s because the 49ers pass rush is questionable without Alden Smith. However, when the field narrows, Houston had better make plays on the outside with Johnson and Hopkins, because Bowman, Whitner, and Willis are turnover factories.

The biggest weakness of San Francisco is lack of team speed on offense. Outside of Kaepernick and Vernon Davis, they don’t have anyone that can run away from Houston.  I also think the 49ers secondary is suspect. They aren’t terrible at CB, but I don’t see Hopkins or Johnson having any trouble getting open against them.

Frankly, I think both teams are going to be keeping it close to the vest and trying to win with its defense. This game could be a field goal fest.

I’m taking San Francisco 19 Houston 13.


You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.

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  1. […] took  a look at our Texans to watch and looked closer at the 49ers in our Know Your opponent segment earlier this […]

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